Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day Three of the Adventure

I am up by 6 a.m. wanting to get an early start. I know that the airport manager says that his receptionist will pick us up at 8 a.m. but that is too late by me. By the time she picks us up and we do the preflight inspection and gas the plane, we will be into mid morning and that is assuming that everything goes according to plan. I am also understanding the importance of trying to beat the hurricane that it is approaching and am anxious to stay ahead of Hanna.

We arrive at the airport by taxi at approximately 7:30 a.m. and it looks similar to the way it was when we landed. Barren. Aviatrix does a preflight inspection and checks the weather. It turns out that there is some fog to burn off so no need for me to be in a hurry. The receptionist shows up and opens the base station. Shortly after, another airport employee shows up with the prison work crew. They also have some new gas cans and the airport employee offers to drive me to the gas station to fill up the cans with MOGAS.

Half an hour later, the prison labour is filling my plane with gas. Aviatrix is in the base station and I am doing the head count – number of prisoners versus myself and the airport employee. I think I can run faster than the airport employee. The manager shows up and then we are equal. All in all, a very hospitable stop. Even the flock of wild turkeys next to the runway seem hospitable, standing idly by giving us the right of way.

Our next stop is Forest, Virginia. The flying has been great and we are starting to see more terrain. I am getting more comfortable flying and I continue to enjoy the experience. The next airstrip we land at is really special – it has MOGAS! This should save us some time. The time it takes to find gas cans and then drive to a gas station has really encumbered on our down time. We land and the base station looks like an old garage or service station from the 50’s or 60’s, only instead of cars there are planes all over. I fill up my plane and there is a large calculator by the gas pump. You calculate the amount that you owe for the gas and then deposit the cash or a check in a can. Everything is done on the honour system. There isn’t a place at the base station to get something to eat but one of the guys offers to take us to the nearby gas station to get some food. It is a very pretty drive and it looks like a very nice community. We take our lunch back to the base station and eat our lunch with one of the guys, Lionel, who reminisces about some of the earlier years at the strip. The men used to sit around and drink Pepsi cola, eat saltines and yak about planes and topical current events. Sounds pretty good to me. He also tells us a bit about the legendary Rucker Tibbs who flew around the circumference of the U.S. in a Piper. It turns out that this is a very unique strip. It was built as a ¼ mile drag strip and airport operations were added later. Today, the strip is mostly used for planes, however, it is shut down to air traffic every second Sunday for drag racing.

During this stop, there were lots of fellows around and a garage with what seemed like an endless amount of tools. Aviatrix used this opportunity to do a little modification to my haul. She continuously amazes me with her versatility, knowledge and mechanical ability. After a minor adjustment we are ready for the next leg of our journey. Before we enter the cockpit, I notice a cap by the wheel. Lionel has graciously given us a parting gift.
Before taxing to the runway, I am entering the coordinates for the next leg of our trip on my GPS. It is very hot and my brain is not working as quickly as usual because of the intensity of the heat. Aviatrix is patient and waits while I slowly enter our route and then we are off! This time to Harbington, Pennsylvania. This leg of the journey is more mountainous than previous legs. Aviatrix and I high five every time we cross a state. Aviatrix calls Flight Services for details on our next stop and a weather update. The briefer has a Southern accent and true to Southern manners asks Aviatrix if there is anything else he can help us with. Each time he asks, Aviatrix has another question. After her third time he says “your pushin it now”. Aviatrix thanks him for the information.

Harbington is close to Camp David. There is a large restricted airspace in close proximity. The base station seems larger than the others on our journey and we are greeted by a guy in a green vest and aviator shades. He takes us into town to get some MOGAS. Aviatrix is questioning him about his flying experience and he instead tries to impress upon us his importance. Aviatrix is quite annoyed because she loves to talk about flying and is disappointed in his banter. After fueling the plane we arrange to get picked up by a hotel shuttle and I use the waiting time as an opportunity to call my husband. Friends have taken pity on him and have invited him over to their house for dinner. They are awaiting my call and have several gathered around the phone to tell me that they are never going in my plane except one new comer, who has expressed an interest. Again, have I asked any of them to fly with me? After several minutes of their Martini induced banter I interject and tell them where we are that we need to get out of their by 10:00 a.m. because the place becomes restricted after that. I also mention my story about Rucker Tibbs. They seem to enjoy the interruption of the dinner party and I say my good byes. After the call Aviatrix and I head to the hotel for a pizza dinner and a good nights sleep. A nice hotel room, a great pizza and even a Law and Order on TV after a great day of flying – life’s good.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day Two of the Adventure

The second day we wanted to get an early start. We headed to Denny’s at 6:00 a.m. for breakfast and some flight planning. We arrived at the airport at 7:00 a.m. to start the second day of our adventure. We started flying up the coast and got 45 minutes or so of flying in when the clouds ahead started to get bigger. Aviatrix tries to navigate around them but at our slow speed realizes that this is a futile effort so we divert and land at Fernandina Beach. The great thing about the Southern states is that there are numerous airstrips. We landed and a couple of guys quickly came over to ask about the plane. One offers us hangar space if we get socked in. Aviatrix and I go in to the Airport to check the weather but I am confident that this is a typical short term Floridian storm. The satellite images, and one of the experienced locals confirms this and says expect the storm to blow over in about 45 minutes. Just enough time for me to check my e-mails from work and look at the stock market activity at opening bell. The local is right about the weather and away we go again and this time we make it to Claxton, Georgia.

It is a spectacular day and we land at a small strip in Claxton, Georgia. The weather is warm, the day is bright and the sky is clear. The strip looks well kept. There is a base station but it looks like no one is around. In fact, the door has a keypad lock and there is a sign posted to use the UNICOM radio frequency number for entry. Inside there is a sign that indicates that there is a courtesy car for use and to call the police station for the keys. We locate the keys and head into town for some MOGAS and lunch. It is interesting stop and I learn a lot about the small town of Claxton from the gas station operator. Claxton is known as the Fruit Cake Capital of the World. The gas station operator tells me about the founder of the Claxton Bakery and his successor Albert Parker. It is a very interesting story and a quick look at the following site is a great example of the positive differences one individual can make in a community

After a couple of trips to the gas station I am back at the base station pulling in behind a guy in a nice sporty car. He is out of his car and quickly racing towards my plane shouting over to Aviatrix and then looking behind at me “is that your plane?” Aviatrix answers ”it is her plane” and he continues to descend upon my plane. He has never seen anything like it and asks Aviatrix several questions. It is only the second day of flying my little plane and at each stop, we seem to have several men approach us with a barrage of questions. None of which stumps Aviatrix.

After our discussion with the onlooker and a call to the manufacturer about a few things we are on our way. This time we are heading to Union County, South Carolina. It is a great day to be flying and I am getting a lot of experience. The take offs and landings are done by Aviatrix but I am getting a lot of flying time in between. The climbing is a little more challenging for me as my seat needs to be adjusted higher so I have a better visibility over the dash during the climb. But I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. After approximately 3 hours of air time, we are in Union County. It looks a little more barren then Claxton and I don’t see a courtesy car. It is after 7:00 p.m. and there isn’t a sole around and no entry into the base station. There is a sign that lists the Airport Manager’s contact number. Aviatrix and I decide to give him a call and ask him for a phone number for a local taxi service. The manager answers the phone and Aviatrix explains that we are at the airport and need to get a taxi into town. He says he will be right there to pick us up and sure enough moments later there he was.

The Airport manager is very helpful. He shows us the two motels in town and also recommends a few restaurants. He also gives us a tour of the small town and showed us the football field that he manages. We explain to him that we are going to need MOGAS in the morning and that we plan to take off early. He says he will arrange to have MOGAS for us and to call his receptionist in the morning and she will pick us up at the motel and drive us to the airport. He cautions us about the prison workforce that he has working at the Airport. He says they are mostly a bunch of guys that skipped out on their child support payments. They will be wearing orange coveralls. Is it rude to ask him if they are chained? I don’t ask.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Training on My New Plane and Heading North

The first day of our journey was scheduled so that Aviatrix and I could each get a couple of hours of training on my new little bird and weather permitting, start our journey home heading up the coast towards Northern Florida. We arrived at the factory a few minutes before our scheduled 8:30 a.m. arrival and there was my little bird on the runway. Very cool.

I was not as far along in my flight training as I would have liked but I had a progress report from my instructor so that Aviatrix and the manufacturer/flight instructor, Bob, could determine what would be suitable additional training. Bob had e-mailed us a pre flight and after flight check list before we arrived and Aviatrix and I went over the list the previous night. That morning, Bob did a detailed walk around the plane showing us various things. Then Bob and I flew off. We had 15 mile per hour winds so it was slightly bumpy. However, we did several landings on water and a couple of stalls. Then we went in for a ground landing. Next, it was Aviatrix’s turn to get some training in on my little bird. I would use this time to return the rental car so that we would be good to go after Aviatrix returned, we ate lunch and I settled my bill with the manufacturer. Unfortunately, I returned the rental car with Aviatrix’s bags still in the trunk.

My husband and I have travelling together down to a science. Whenever we arrive in an airport, I stand by the baggage carousel and get the two sets of golf clubs, my small bag and his biggest bag in the world. His motto is “when in doubt, take it” therefore, the large bag. He then quickly makes his way to the rental counter racing past all traffic in his path. The pickup and return of the rental car is his deal. This is not an excuse. I did know Aviatrix’s bags were in the trunk as I retrieved her headset out of the trunk just a few hours earlier, however, when I returned the car, I looked for all visible items in the car and neglected to open the trunk. I was so darn excited at the prospect of getting our first leg of the trip started and I was very cognizant of the weather. It was imperative to get a good start at heading as far up the coast as possible before Hurricane Hannah descended. Getting out of the Southern States as soon as possible would reduce our risk of weather delay considerably.

Aviatrix returned from her flight training and quickly asked if I had got her bags from the trunk. I shook my head. Then she told me her computer was in her bag. We went into high gear. We went back to the rental car place although we knew it would be closed as they shut down at 1:00 p.m. on labour day, moments before we discovered my omission. However, the car was still at the exact place that I dropped it off and we hired a locksmith to come out and open the trunk. Aviatrix’s bags were still in the trunk. Success and back on track. I was impressed by Aviatrix’s handling of the situation. We were also very grateful to have the assistance of the manufacturer’s wife who taxied me to the rental car office twice on the same day.

We arrived back to the factory, loaded up the plane and headed up the coast to experience the first leg of our journey. Flying north along Daytona Beach is too cool for words. It was about 90 degrees so we had the doors off and I had my arm out the window. We were flying at 2500 feet above ground and had great visibility. Again, just too cool for words.

After approximately two hours of flying we decided to land in St. Augustine, Florida. Aviatrix lands the plane and we taxi to an area where the planes are tied down. I mean jets, my little bird is parked by Cirrus jets, Learjets and other hot looking planes. A man in a golf cart with a bright green vest quickly comes up to meet us. Soon later, another individual comes over for a chat. They are very curious to learn about my new plane. The bright green vested men are employees of the fixed base operator, hired to meet planes and accommodate their fuel requirements. However, my littler bird takes premium auto gas, known as MOGAS in aviation terms; something that I learn is not readily available at airports. Also, generally not readily available are cans to put the MOGAS in. The attendants offer to take us to a gas station and to find some gas cans for us. While they are rounding up the cans we tie down my bird and Aviatrix does a thorough check of the bird. Then we head into a sexy looking building used to coordinate services for the plane owners. It has a pilot station where pilots can check the weather, do flight planning etc. There is also a sort of concierge. He arranges for a taxi and a hotel room for us. The hotel rates were very reasonable and we stayed at a Comfort Inn that was close by for about $55. He also takes down the information about my plane as I am wondering how much it is for my plane to bunk down beside the Cirrus jet. Aviatrix casually mentions that she is unsure how much to tip. This was a good save as I go fishing in my pockets for some bills for the gas guys. As it turned out it was only $15 for my bird to bunk down. We headed to the hotel and prepared for an early start the next day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Meeting the Ferry Pilot - Aviatrix

I had arranged to meet Aviatrix in the Orlando Airport at the baggage claim area. I had booked our flights so that we arrived in Orlando within ten minutes of each other. I could tell from our correspondence that Aviatrix was very competent, detailed and professional. She had e-mailed me a picture of herself and sure enough there she was!

We got the rental car and headed for Rockledge to get dinner and a good night sleep before our training the next morning on my new plane. Our dinner choices were limited and we opted to eat close to our hotel sacrificing better restaurant choices further away to gain more sleep.

I could tell after a few short hours with Aviatrix that she knew how to travel smart – eating properly, keeping physically fit and being very adaptable. This will be a great trip!

The Day of the Trip to Orlando

On the departure day of a trip my household is on high alert. Stress levels are elevated and so are emotions. Throw in some sleep deprivation and you have quite a cocktail. Usually before a trip, my husband and I work about 60 to 70 hours a week before the trip so that we have our businesses in good order before we leave. Needless to say, we are generally pretty tired. This time was no exception. Although I was making an effort to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night during the previous week, the numerous days of trying to cram a 28 hour day into a 24 hour day has caught up with me. Also, the call at 12:35 a.m. did not help.

Any way, it is a busy morning gathering the last minute details and answering calls from people who are telling me to be careful and not to fly in bad weather. I did get a great call from my Mother. My Mother has dementia. In earlier years, whenever I was preparing for an exam, I would always call my Mother with the usual - I am going to flunk - and my Mom would say no you are not, you always do well. I would say it is different this time and she would assure me that it wasn’t. She would also ask me why I couldn’t be more like my twin sisters. She would say, they partied and had a good time in university, you didn’t see them worrying about getting "A"s and they did alright. Indeed they did. My Mom hasn’t had the faculties to call me before a big life event in several years. But this morning she called to say that I could do it, that I should be confident, I can do anything that I set my mind to. It sounded like my old Mom. A few minutes later my sister called to ask me when I would be arriving in Fredericton with my small bird because Mom had told her I would be there tomorrow. Well, my conversation with my Mom was good even if her cognizance didn’t last long.

I am surprised by the number of people that call and say they are going to pray for me. What is the biggie? Do they pray for me daily when I drive to work with husband? This happens to be the most stressful part of my day and I am stock broker. On the drive out to the airport, I tried to understand the big deal? What I am doing is normal; people fly small aircraft all the time. Don’t they?

One Day before Orlando

The day before my trip to Orlando I still have a few items on my to do list. I am heading to a local hardware store before one last flight lesson before my adventure. I find most of the items on my list except for a 6 inch monkey wrench which the clerk informs me that they don’t make???

My flight lesson was good and I am starting to piece things together. However, I will
be glad to fly my own plane. I don’t remember having any problems with the flaps in the Aventura. Now I am off to a wedding and hopefully I will be home early for a good night’s sleep!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Days Leading Up to the Great Adventure

Six Days Before takeoff to Orlando
It is almost 11:00 p.m. and I think I made it through the day without any curve balls. A few little oddities though, I booked Aviatrix’s airline ticket from Halifax to Vancouver and I haven’t received a confirmation. Also, I am waiting for my insurance quote.

A piece of good news though, I had another flying lesson today and I got the piece of paper that says I am qualified to get my student pilot’s license. This is a good day.

Five Days before Orlando
The plane manufacturer finally had time to take my bird up for a test flight. He recommends that I purchase brakes for my plane and says his assistant will give me a call with a quote. I guess brakes are another option.

I tested my personal locator beacon – SPOT and it works. The application is not working exactly how I thought it would in that it isn’t tracking me every ten minutes, rather it is only showing where I am when I activate the device and where I am when I deactivate the device.

Four Days before Orlando
The manufacturer calls. My brand new radio is fried. My only option is to buy a used radio from the manufacturer and have it installed in time for our flight home. My fried radio came with a 30-day money back guarantee but it has been over 30 days since the radio was shipped to the manufacturer. A call to the sales manager at Gulf Coast Avionics and an explanation as to why I am over the 30 days and I have an agreement from him to refund my money. Thank you Gulf Coast Avionics.

Three Days before Orlando
I must be living a dream – no plane curve balls today!

Two Days before Orlando
The manufacturer and I have been conversing on almost a daily basis. I am your typical PITA (pain in the a_ _) customer. However, we are coming down to the wire and I am confident that I am going to be happy with the end product. He reminds me that I am not buying a Cadillac but rather a Kit Plane. I understand – who buys Cadillacs?

Aviatrix had suggested that I carry some tools on board. Great idea I thought so asked the manufacturer what he would recommend. He gave me a list which included a monkey wrench and a box wrench. That evening, I headed out to Home Depot with my list in hand. I spoke to the salesperson in the tools department. This individual didn’t know what either a monkey wrench or box wrench was. Sure as sure I didn’t either. Until recently, I only had two things in my tool box – a check book and a pen. I got home from the store and explained my lack of progress to my husband. He suggested I google the items for a description. Tomorrow is a new day and after my visit to wiklepedia, I will be better prepared for my shopping expedition.